Right. Hear me out on this, because I’m one totally serious. It’s entirely possible that the most important clothing purchase you make this winter will be a pair of leggings that, on first inspection, look a tiny little bit like they might’ve once been a bin bag. I know, I know. I wouldn’t have believed me either, and yet here we are.
My epiphany came around a month ago. I’d bought a new hoodie, quite an expensive one — for that is what we do, it seems, us women of a certain age, when faced with many more weeks indoors and not a lot of opportunities to wear party frocks. We buy stylish loungewear. I’m a cliche.
My hoodie is a peachy sort of pink, with writing across the front, and it’s got a big snuggly hood which is wide enough to enclose a bobble hat should it need to. Perfect. The garment of the season.
The thing is, I’ve learned, that hoodies just don’t go very well with my usual staple of jeans. There’s something about pairing a long, snuggly, cosy garment on one’s top half with rigid uncompromising denim on one’s bottom half that feels slightly wrong and looks even worse. Plus, all that fabric bunching together at hip level is very hard to reconcile with a zip-front coat. Hard nope.
No, I quickly realized that I needed to team my new hoodie with something different on my legs — and that “something different” should probably be some form of leggings. I’m very much not a leggings person by nature, having lived most of my life in pencil skirts for work, so this felt like a very brave decision. Having made it, though, I trundled off with some exhilaration to see what the internet could offer me.
My criteria were first that whatever leggings I bought needed to be warm; secondly, that they needed to be not-too-casual (a hoodie already feels borderline pyjama, if it’s soft enough, and I wanted to make it clear to myself and my energy levels that I was in daywear); and thirdly, that they needed to be reasonably priced, because I actually had no idea when or if I’d actually wear them once they arrived.
After a pleasant half-hour in a Google hole, I bought these. Marks and Sparks! Less than twenty quid. And let me tell you, they are a downright marvel.
They’re thick and soft and fleecy on the inside, much like thermal tights. The waistband comes up nice and high — not to bra level, but way above the belly button, so you’re nicely contained. They have enough structure at the waistband so that you could wear them with a tucked-in sparkly top, should you wish to stretch their versatility to encompass a Zoom party (or even a real one, if you live somewhere with a government that didn’t screw up the first lockdown and then ruin Christmas by banning all enjoyable human contact for the foreseeable future).
They also literally wipe clean, so if you go for a long walk with a friend in the countryside (because that’s the only social contact the stupid government is currently allowing, whatever) and you get splashes of mud on the hems, you can just wipe them off. I’ll repeat: they are wipe-clean clothes that don’t look like lab scrubs or a bin man costume. Game changer. They are also entirely windproof, so you can wear them with a big coat and not feel any patches of whistling coldness when the breeze picks up.
They stretch well, but not too much — no baggy knees yet, and I’ve worn them pretty regularly since I’ve owned them. They also don’t behave weirdly if you wear them over tights. There’s no static or crumpling or strange baggy crotch issues. And because they’re not actually made of fabric, at least not on the outside, you can wear them around a firepit and not reek of woodsmoke when you go back indoors.
Along with my big stompy boots (these, since you ask), my pleather leggings have turned out to be an unexpected favorite purchase of 2020. Not just because they’re so practical and they fill a wardrobe hole so well. But also because every time I pull them on, yanking them up gleefully in front of the bedroom mirror, I can pretend for about 5 seconds that I’m Sandy at the end of Grease and I’m about to zip myself into a skintight leather jacket and heels for a dance in the sun with my friends, not clamber into an oversized hoodie and sheepskin slippers to log into my laptop in the garden shed.
They’re a garment that contrives to be both comfortable and — dare I say it? — almost glamorous at the same time.
(Tell me about it, stud).